Writers block is a problem that shows up in a different form for music producers. It’s rare for us to not be able start a project. Most likely you hit the problem of not being able to get in the groove producing anything that you consider a “banger.” In these times, consider these 3 tips to get it moving again.
1. Work on an assignment. I call this technique going to fridge instead of waiting for someone to cook. Sometimes I work free form, just letting the music flow. Other times I work on assignment. A client will ask for a specific style, genre, or sound. In those cases I have a brainstorm in mind and a basic framework for what the end product should be. For me that’s sometimes tougher but exciting. I find that once I get going on this type of assignment, my creative juices take over and I eventually end up with a banger.
The trick you can use is to create the assignment for yourself. Who says you have to have an outside client to challenge yourself. You can give yourself an assignment within a genre, style, and sound and get to work. The key is to get the assignment planned out before you step into the studio to work on it.
Get the idea as fleshed out as much possible in your mind. Detail what the end work will sound like and the feeling it will bring when you hear it. If you go that far with it, you push your mind to call up those creative juices to create that feeling. Now when you hit the studio, you have the energy and path to run down.
2. You don’t always have to start from scratch. Another trick I’ve used is almost like remixing my own work or creating variations of a previous work. Start by calling up an old project in the studio, giving yourself access to a ready made pallet of sounds, tempo, song structure, etc, then scrap everything you recorded except for a few elements. If you work using a midi sequencer (or FL user), this is as simple as creating a copy of the project under a new name and deleting everything except for a simple element like the snare pattern.
At this point, you’re already a third of the way down the road to creating something new. You’ve got a "template" and a tempo and a snare pattern to build from. By the time your done, you might have ditched the original snare and found the session has pulled you in a new direction. And that’s what you wanted in the first place. Something new.
3. Call on The Masters. Some days, for me at least, the above two methods don’t get me going the way I want and the energy level still needs a boost. This is when I like call on The Masters. Depending on the genre I’m working in, I’ll play a few of the masterworks that convey the type of emotion or energy I’m after and also some tracks that are completely different.
For example, if I’m working on an R&B ballad and nothing hits the mark, I might throw on some of the classic Janet Jackson joints produced Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and something instrumental like a passionate cello piece by Yo Yo Ma where the emotion is there without lyrics at all. Or some Billy Joel or Debussy, or Missy Elliot, or The Roots, or… you get the idea. Whatever you play, make sure it’s material you consider to be excellent, that sets the bar in your mind for what you want in the end from yourself. Throwing in some varied styles points your brain in new directions away from the roadblock you’d been facing and gets you shooting for the stars.
So there you go! 3 ways to get out of your "beat block" ultimately flowing toward your next musical masterpiece. Have fun with it see what your get.